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Second Degree Reckless Endangerment: New York Penal Law 120.20

As significant as it is permanent, a finding of guilt after an arrest for Second Degree Reckless Endangerment, New York Penal Law 120.20, carries with it a punishment that should give us all, and most importantly you, pause. If convicted of PL 120.20 in New York, the penalty for such a finding is anywhere from time served in custody to one year in jail. Fines, three years probation, and community service too? All of these potential punishments and sentences for a PL 120.20 conviction are on the table.

While your criminal defense lawyer or Reckless Endangerment defense attorney can likely explain the best and worst case scenarios involving your arrest for PL 120.20, do not lose sight of the most important issue. That is, how will your criminal defense lawyer formulate a defense to Second Degree Reckless Endangerment to best convince a prosecutor to either dismiss your case or offer you a non-criminal resolution? Can your conduct be mitigated? Should such a defense not be strong enough, how will you and your lawyer challenge the probable cause and proof beyond a reasonable doubt in your PL 120.20 case? If you cannot beat the case on the law or facts and a trial is on the horizon, what will your evidence be or how will your attorney challenge the District Attorney’s alleged facts before either a judge or jury?

Second Degree Reckless Endangerment: Understanding NY PL 120.20

Relatively straight forward for a criminal defense attorney, you are guilty of Second Degree Reckless Endangerment if you recklessly engage in a manner that creates and establishes a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person. Not all that helpful for a non-lawyer, there are many terms in the PL 120.20 statute that are defined by the New York Penal Law.

Whereas a “physical injury” merely means an impairment of physical condition or substantial pain, a conviction for Second Degree Reckless Endangerment requires “serious physical injury” which is defined in part as one that creates a substantial risk of death or causes a protracted health impairment. Moreover, while not defined in New York Penal Law 10.00 and potentially a part of your defense to a PL 120.20 arrest, the risk of this serious physical injury must be “substantial.” If prosecutors charge you with conduct that creates a possible, potential, or even a likely risk of serious physical injury, it is incumbent that their proof is beyond a reasonable doubt and rises to a risk that is substantial.

Additionally, acting recklessly is a different state of mind than knowingly, intentionally or criminally negligently. New York Penal Law 15.05(3) defines “recklessly” in part as when a person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a particular result will occur, he or she still pursues that course of action. The risk must also be a gross deviation from that of a reasonable person’s standard.

Second Degree Reckless Endangerment: Issues and Defenses

As a matter of serious concern, and an issue to discuss with your criminal defense attorney whether you received a Desk Appearance Ticket for PL 120.20 or not, prosecutors can bump up a Second Degree Reckless Endangerment to First Degree Reckless Endangerment by establishing you behaved in a manner evincing a depraved indifference to human life and recklessly engaged in conducted that also created a grave risk of death to another person. If you are either arrested for PL 120.25 or later your crimes are elevated to this offense, your exposure goes from a misdemeanor and one year in jail to a possible punishment of up to seven years in prison on a class “D” felony.

Regardless of which degree of Reckless Endangerment you are charged with, a defense worthy of exploration is that of factual impossibility. Simply stated, if nobody was ever in danger even if you were otherwise reckless, then no crime of Reckless Endangerment occurred. Another way to look at this with your criminal lawyer is if there was never a risk, no matter how crazy and stupid your conduct allegedly was, you did not commit a Reckless Endangerment crime.

With so much to lose merely from a Second Degree Reckless Endangerment arrest, be smart about retaining the right criminal lawyer to defend you in the face of a PL 120.20 charge. No, Reckless Endangerment is not an intentionally violent and malicious crime, but a conviction will leave you just as scarred and your future equally crippled.

When there is no substitute for experience, advocacy and knowledge, the New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Saland Law are both available and ready to stand up for your rights to best ensure you leave the courtroom unscathed.

Call us at 212.312.7129 or contact us online today to speak with our New York attorneys and former Manhattan prosecutors.

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